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For the Ilopkinsian Magazine.
He that “ hath a dream let him tell a dream."-Jer. xxiii, 28.
Concluded from page 505. Then I saw in my dream that the chief managers of the * great christian establishment,” in order to secure unity in the true faith, began to teach that it is presumptuous for mortals to explain the bible by the light of nature, and according to the self-evident principles of natural theology ; but that it should be construed by other rules which they expected to control ; and that error should be opposed “by scriptural argument and by nothing else.". And if the bible, exactly as they should expound it, were to be received as infallible ; they hoped to establish their authority and indiuence with a witness, and have a “great christian establishment,” that, in point of infallibility should at least rival that of “ His Holiness.” Instead of recommending deep research, profound metaphysical enquiry,and acute and thorough speculation in religion and philosophy, as Dr. Watts does in his book on the “ Mind”—they taught their pupils that common people were not metaphysicians, theologians, nor philosophers; that religion and philosophy were quite two things; and of course, that religion and ignorance of philosophy and metaphysics, were one. They often warned their pupils not to dive beyond the depth of their people, and to be exceedingly careful not to carry their inquiries and speculations too far. They scarcely ever preached at an ordination, or on any public occasion, without giving some thrust at metaphysical preaching or dry speculation, or polemic theology.
Accordingly I saw in my dream that their disciples generally left the "establishment” thorough going anti-metaphysicians, and anti-polemics, and exceedingly "fierce for moderation in theology ;" averse to penetrating into the deep things of God, and bringing out of the treasury things new and old. Indeed they were any thing but profound and acute theologians. They were scribes well instructed in the science of declamation ; the rules of prudence and religious management; and the art of acquiring popular favor and influence, so as to do good; and tolerably well versed in “exegesis," philosophy, oriental bistery and biblical criticism ; but in general, superficial in divinity, " not clad in polernic armor,” and opposed to profound and acute reasoning. And their influence upon the churches began to be visible, in leading even many good people to lose sight of the importance of truth and principle and honesty, and contending earnestly for the true faithi, and watching in all thingsin leading their flocks to condemn ministers ten times more severely for going a little too far, and for alleged imprudence in exciting needless opposition, and disturbing the quiet of the united church and world; than for neglect of discrimination in
preaching; and refusing to declare all the counsel of God. Having been taught the art of reaching the passious and preaching without carrying things too far, or getting into the field of unlimited self-denial and disinterested benevolence; or at least without unequivocally shutting up their people within these limits; they of course promoted religious excitements; and indeed soon claimed to be the best, if not lke only true friends of revivals of religion.
Instead of accomplishing their religious enterprises by the simple influence of truth and honesty, doing present duty and submissively leaving events to God; the leading managers now began to trust in combined moral influence and moral suasion. Religious combinations, associations, and even national societies on the broad ground of Catholicism, and unbounded liberality, became the order of the day. To make general enlistments against the "common enemy" of error and immorality, in their gross and hateful forms, the Church now were generally induced to sign a truce with the world, in respect to hated theological controversy. Disputed points were buried. True christian honesty was sacrificed to success. All thoughts seemed to be turned upon converting the whole world; upon over. throwing the kingdom of Satan, and upon having a Milennium of Catholicism, latitudinarianism, and popular moral influence.
The United Church and world, under the “Great Christian Establishment," were now able to secure all posts of honor and influence, and almost entirely control the press. Religious Editors were required to let theological speculation, and metaphysical inquiry alone, to be extremely careful not to dive tou deep, and not for their right hand, to put in requisition vbatever there is that is lively or powerful, acute or profound in the faculties of their minds, to give their favorite motives curreucy, and to expose the shallowness of those who dissent from them." The officers in the great christian establishments, were chosen from those who were skillful in managing; and the anniversary speeches were from the same class.
It now began to appear that the experiment of committing the interests and influence of the Churches, or the formation of the character of the elergy, to Christian establishments, was a very hazardous and dangerous one. Clerical intrigue and domination began to trample upon the sacred rights of conscience and the liberty of the churches wherewith Christ had made them free. Some began to teach that the power of ecclesiastical discipline, and of church polity, did not belong to the churches, but to the clergy. Some principles emanated from the Christian establishments, which would have been spurned by the colony at an earlier period; in particular, that some religious questions, considered by most, at this time, as not essential parts of the gospel-scheme, ought never to be talked about, at ordinations, and even at the ezaminalion of candidates ; implying that the clergy had generally become so irritable,and so strong. ly bound in the chains of prejudice, as not to permit free in
quiry on all religious subjects, even al a time of special examinalion. That some questions in religion and moral philosophy, are unimportient, and the discussion of them, especially at ordaining councils, of an unhallorced tendency''--and even that the radical question in moral phliosophy, respecting "taste and exercise, should not be made a “topic of reasoning before popular assemblies'--that "a warfare in Magazines and Pamphlets,” or “theological discussion” on any points generally set down as "doubtful, or unimportant, singular speculations," and not absolutely "essentinl to the christian system," is "evil and only evil." and has a tendency "not to remove, but to confirm errors, not to subdue, but to augment prejudice, not to unite christians, but to multiply jealousies among them,”--that "contention about soine religious questions, is necessarily an “unholy spirit”-and especially, that it is "both ungentlemaniy and unchristian,” to examine the graduates of the “Establishment,” very minutely on speculative and deep pnints of philosophy and religion. And to cap the climax, these principles were very cautiously, and ingeniously, though rather indefinitely sent abroad under the profession of no kind of intention "to preclude free inquiry or debate on any subjects, WHETHER MORE OR LESS IMPORTANT." **
And I further saw in my dream, that a few of the churches now began to be somewhat alarmed. If free inquiry, and free discussion on some religious questions must be probibited at ordaining counsels, and the examination of candidates, and excluded religious periodicals, and branded as an "uholy spirit," of “unhallowed tendency;" if the world and the "handmaid'' must be connived at, and flattered in order to keep the peace, and hasten on the Millenium; if the gentle and pure influence of truth and sincerity, must give place to popular moral influence; if Arminianism musi be fellowshiped as pure orthodoxy ; if christians must sign a truce with men of the world, on tlie subject of theological controversy, to secure their influence; if the Bible must be received without controversy, as explained by the Establishment; if congregations of mep must be taken as they are, and left much more ignorant of philosoplıy, and divinity; and if ignorance of metaphysics and moral philosoplay must be considered as the mother of devotion ;" they began to fear there was not a little truth in the following maxims ;"Almost all the variance, contention, and party zeal, which have existed in the christian world, have originated in the feelings and conduct of the ministers of the gospel.”—“Whatever evils come upon the churches, will no doubt be owing chiefly to something ainiss, in those who siistain the sacred office.” They began seriously to inquire, whether the human heart had grown so much better, that it had ccased to be necessary to "watch in all things,” to “beware of men," and to keep a watchful eye upon “Religious Establishments,' ecclesiastical combinations, clerical unions, and dominations, and "Satan trans* See Spirit of Pilgrims for August, p. 156. Sce same, p. 463.
formed into an angel of light, and whether it be any great thing, if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness.” They asked themselves whether the following sentiments had lost all their truth and pertinence since perhaps 1824? “The opinion that controversy is of no use, because dis.putants never convince each other, is derived from a very limited view of the subject. It is nearer the truth to say, that no great advance has been made in science, religion or politics, without controversy. And certain it is, that no era of powerful theological discussion, has ever passed away, without an abiding effect in favor of truth. The discussions of Augustine, of Luther, and of Calvin, are felt to this day; and the controversial writings of Edwards have been to error, what the mounds and dykes of Holland have been to the sea.”* Their minds dwelt for a moment upon the following thoughts from one Mr. NETTLETON : "All those ministers who do not discriminate between true and false zeal, and true and false affections, in their preaching and conversation, and make that difference, and hold it up to the world, if possible, as clear as the sun, heartily approving of the one, and as beartily and publicly condemning the other, will turn out to be the greatest traitors to the cause of revivals. They become responsible for the corruptions which prevail in consequence of this neglect.” And they also called to mind the following sentences of Whelpley: "It is with clergymen, as with all other classes of men, some of them are very good men, and some are quite the other way. None have done more to obstruct the progress of truth, and the interest of religion than clergymen.” And they began seriously to inquire whether some of these late principles from the Establishment, might not possibly be an entering wedge, not to Unitarianism, but to the intolerant maxims and system of "his Holiness.”
And moreover I saw in my dream, that at a time when the christian public were generally and justly alarmed at a certain very plausible ism, that claimed to be Calvinism, but was in fact Arminianism ; the Chairman of the oldest “Christian Establishment,” sent out a book to make war upon the alarming ism that had created such a panic in the public mind. But not baving counted the cost, or seen the consequence of an exterminating warfare, he made but one attack, and then left the field, under a heavy charge of grape. And no sooner had the panic abated, and the alarm in a graet measure ceased, than this liberal-minded, and peace-making Chairman spiead out his wing over this same ism, and seemed to bid it "God speed” in the “Great West," praying that the Lord would succeed one of its principal and hearty promoters, and render his labors to diffuse his sentiments and spirit, "successful above all that you may ask or think.' Here I conjectured in my dream, whether the next somerset he turns, might not make him one of the ad. vocates of this ism, since I had heard it rumored that he had been rather inclined, of late, to abandon Exercise' for "Taste.'
* See Dr. Beccher's Sermon, on the “ Faith onee delivered to the Saints.”
I had just begun to dream something about the consequences of this opposition to liberty of conscience, and freedom of discussion; but most unfortunately I was here suddenly awoke by a call to supper.
I hope, Mr. Editor, you will give my extraordinary dreams an insertion, that it may go down to the impartial historians of 1980, that posterity inay see which eccesiastical dreamer has been favored with the clearest insight into both passing and future events.
Many in this age of the world are extremely alarmed, if they hear any thing said, or see any thing writen, which is called metaphysical. And an erroneous impression seems to have gained the assent of a few literary men, that almost all discussions upon the essential doctrines of the Bible are metaphysical, and metaphysical discussions are not only useless, but detrimental, and ought not to be introduced into religious newspapers nor the pulpit. But we think no alarm need be taken on this account. We do not see how a writer or preacher can discuss any of the most important subjects on religion in a clear and convincing manner, without treating them in some degree, metaphysically. We most assuredly have the example of the Apostle Paul; he was in the most strict sense of the term, a metaphysical writer and preacher. To settle this question, we will take a view of the Apostle's manner of preaching. His preaching was argumentative, he inferred just consequences from true premises. His reasoning and argumentation upon the great doctrines and duties of religion were fair and couclusive. They tended to carry conviction to the conscience and affect the heart. Fair reasoning upon any decp, difficult, profound moral subject, is metaphysical reasoning. Argumentative preaching on moral subjects, is always more or less metaphysical. •Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures.' And when preaching before Felix, 'he reasoned of righteousness temperance and judgement to come, and Felix trembled.'There is much more said about Paul's reasoning upon the doctrines and duties of the gospel, tban about his declaiming on those doctrines. And this course he supposed was a judicious one for him to adopt as a preacher.
At any rate sinners trembled under conviction of the truth and force of his reasoning. It was not a singlilar, but a common thing for him to employ his metaphysical reasoning in preacliing. He usually preached upon subjects strictly metaphysical, wbich called forth the exercise of the highest reasoning powers of the human mind. He preached upon the being of God-the attributes of God-the decrees of God-thie sovereignty of God